Golden State Warriors Must Hold on to Harrison Barnes

Simon Cherin-Gordon@SimoncgoContributor IIIFebruary 20, 2013

HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 15:  Harrison Barnes #44 of the Golden State Warriors and Team Shaq dunks the ball next to Kemba Walker #15 of the Charlotte Bobcats in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge 2013 part of the 2013 NBA All-Star Weekend at the Toyota Center on February 15, 2013 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Before the Feb. 21 NBA trading deadline, several players are almost guaranteed to move. Dozens will be shopped and shopped for, and hundreds will be mentioned in trade discussions between general managers across the league.

One name that will likely be brought up multiple times in conversation is that of Harrison Barnes, the rookie starting small forward for the Golden State Warriors.

Of course, it will be other GMs bringing up Barnes' name. Warriors GM Bob Myers has no intention of shopping his 20-year-old rising star.

For the sake of the franchise, its fanbase and its dignity, he should do nothing more than simply humor these front-officemen.

So far, the Warriors have immersed themselves in trade speculation, or at least been immersed in it. Whether or not this is due to an active deadline approach by the front office or simply the rumor machine cranking out its goods, there's nothing wrong with being an apparent player at the deadline.

There's no such thing as a team that can't benefit from a trade, and the more a team puts themselves out there, the more likely that "just-right" offer will come to them.

Equally likely, of course, is that "just-wrong" offer. The one that's enticing, has a clear upside and seemingly has an insurance policy in place against the potential pitfalls.

What makes the trade "just wrong," of course, is that these pitfalls are hidden and thus exist outside of the insurance policy.

If any offers are made to Bob Myers for Harrison Barnes before the deadline, they will almost certainly be of the dangerous just-wrong variety.

The notion that Golden State should consider cashing in on Barnes' high trade value is not a stupid one.

The Warriors are, despite a current six-game losing streak, more than likely going to make the playoffs. 

Due to the clear distinction between buyers and sellers that the trade deadline inherently creates, any offer for the young, enigmatic Barnes would likely feature an established veteran on the other end. This type of player could turn the Warriors from a one-and-done team to a Conference Finals dark horse.

This is the "too hot" bowl of porridge in the "just-wrong" analogy.

Even if the Warriors moved Barnes for a high quality veteran (say, Paul Pierce), the team would still not be on the level of the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder orMiami Heat. Winning a championship will likely require going through at least two and possibly all three of these teams, and no player that Barnes could garner would put Golden State on that level.

The natural question at this point becomes: Will Barnes ever be better than the player he is potentially traded for? The answer to this is unknown. Common sense says that Barnes has the talent to be a perennial All-Star but isn't even an above-average NBA starter yet; attempting to predict how much he'll bridge that potential/reality gap is foolish.

No, it's much more worth Golden State's while to look at it this way: What if Barnes does become better than the player he is potentially traded for?

The answer to that question is simply "too cold."

The Warriors have seen this happen so many times it's embarrassing. Mitch Richmond; Chris Webber; Gilbert Arenas; Antawn Jamison: The Warriors have moved blossoming young talents for established veterans, and it seemingly never works out in their favor.

Of course, all of these trades were made within their own unique set of circumstances, and any Barnes trade can't simply be equated to all of these maneuvers.

Except, it can and will be, beyond a shadow of a doubt, if Barnes becomes a star and the player Golden State gets in return fades away over the next couple of seasons. There is a public perception of the Warriors as a team that makes rash, ill-advised decisions and can never build a winner no matter how much young talent it has.

Imagine Harrison Barnes in Boston Celtics Green, throwing down highlight-reel dunks and getting prime placement on SportsCenter nightly. Imagine the small forward playing in the All-Star game five years from now, while the Warriors continued to hunt for a star on the wing.

The next question is: What if no trade is made and Barnes doesn't become a star?

The answer here? "Just fine."

The fate of the franchise's future does not rest on Barnes' shoulders, but the morale of the fanbase relies on him growing into whatever player he may become within the friendly confines of Oracle Arena.

The Warriors do need to look for ways to improve their team this trade deadline. Andrea Bargnani, Eric Gordon, Paul Pierce, Josh Smith—these are all players who could make the Warriors significantly better, and that's always the goal, even when championship contention may be a year or two down the line.

Still, until and unless the Warriors find the "just-right" offer, the one that will truly open the door to a championship or long-term championship contention, Harrison Barnes and the hope he brings along with him must remain wearing blue and yellow.